Ackley has 'pretty special night' vs. Mets

Ackley has 'pretty special night' vs. Mets

NEW YORK -- It was 2:30 p.m. ET Sunday afternoon when North Carolina baseball coach Mike Fox walked off the diamond on UNC's campus and quickly dashed home before making his way to the Raleigh-Durham Airport.

Fox -- joined by John Ackley and a few others from North Carolina -- was Queens-bound for the Sunday night finale of the Subway Series: a three-game set littered with former Tar Heels Adam Warren, Andrew Miller, Matt Harvey and Dustin Ackley, John's son.

Fox and John Ackley boarded their plane Sunday afternoon not knowing if Dustin would start. They arrived in New York to learn that their timing was perfect, as Ackley had indeed gotten the nod at second base. And they left Citi Field headed back to Raleigh having seen Dustin crush a three-run shot over the right-field wall in the sixth inning of the Yankees' eventual 11-2 win over the Mets.

"I knew as of like a day or two ago [they were coming]," Ackley said. "I'm glad they got to come, and it was a good game, for sure. My situation, you don't really know what game you're going to be playing, so it kind of worked out about as good as it could."

The Yankees originally acquired Ackley from Seattle on July 30 in exchange for right-handed pitcher Jose Ramirez and left fielder Ramon Flores. They liked that Ackley was versatile -- capable of playing the outfield, second base and first base -- and they saw promise in his swing.

But just two games in with his new club, Ackley was sidelined for nearly a month fighting a right lumbar strain.

It took regaining both physical and mental energy in the form of confidence, but now Ackley is proving just what he can do for a team in a pennant race. In 13 games with the Yankees, he's hitting .360 with two homers and six RBIs. He's started and come off the bench, he's played left field, second and first.

"This kid has had success before. I know this year has kind of been a tough year for him, but you start to wonder how much his back was bothering him and he didn't even realize it was bothering him," manager Joe Girardi said. "He took those couple of weeks off, went down to rehab and swung the bat great, and it's just continued here."

Sunday was a special night for Ackley with his college coach and his father there to see him. John and Dustin connect over baseball, as John played in the Minor Leagues for the Red Sox. He now lives in North Carolina, where Ackley was raised.

But until now, Ackley had been with the Mariners' organization since he was drafted in 2009, meaning having his father in attendance was a luxury he rarely enjoyed.

Sunday was different.

"I knew he was probably going to be watching -- whether it was on TV or here at the game, so it was pretty cool," Ackley said. "I think it's cool for all my family to get to see.

"It was a pretty special night."

Grace Raynor is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.